Behind the Curtains of Israel’s Groundbreaking Spacecraft

At 4 AM this past Friday the Israeli spacecraft “Bereishit” was launched to the moon. Only the United States, Russia, and China have managed this same accomplishment. Not only is this spacecraft making history, but also an engineer who is following it from the ground, Alex Friedman, one of the project’s leaders.

Friedman was born in the Soviet Union. His father, a Chabad Chassid, was arrested shortly before he was born because of his Jewish activities for which he spent seven years in Soviet prisons. Alex saw his father for the first time when he was in 1st grade when he was released. But he didn’t even recognize him. Friedman received sick notes from a doctor so he wouldn’t have to attend school on Shabbat. As a Jew, he had no chance to be admitted to the Department of Physics, because of anti-Semitism there. So he chose mathematics instead. Only after years of struggle, in 1970, did Alex Friedman’s family receive permission to emigrate to Israel, where Friedman joined the Israel Air Force, IAI, and Israel’s space industry.

In recent years, he has worked days and nights on this special project. “This is an inspiring event,” he said recently. “For me, it is also the closing of a personal and national circle…”

“The boy from Russia who was not accepted to study physics because he was a Jew is now part of a team that is sending off a spacecraft containing a disk with the entire Hebrew Bible scanned onto it and an Israeli flag.”

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סיון רהב-מאיר

Sivan Rahav-Meir is a media personality and lecturer. Married to Yedidya, the mother of five. Lives in Jerusalem. She works for Israel TV news, writes a column for Yediot Aharonot newspaper, and hosts a weekly radio show on Galei Zahal (Army Radio). Her lectures on the weekly Torah portion are attended by hundreds and the live broadcast attracts thousands more listeners throughout the world.
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